NEWS 17/2/2007 Stingers are on the rise in numbers on the Gold Coast this weekend.  Reporter: Rick Morton Pic Jono Searle
NEWS 17/2/2007 Stingers are on the rise in numbers on the Gold Coast this weekend. Reporter: Rick Morton Pic Jono Searle

Swimmers hit by sea snakes, stinger bites

STINGERS, stingrays and shark, fish or sea snake bites landed more than 100 people in the Gold Coast University Hospital's emergency department last year, says Queensland Health.

The volume of patients being taken in with injuries inflicted by marine creatures has sparked a warning from an emergency doctor for swimmers to watch out for what might be lurking beneath the waves.

The warning also follows a wave of stings caused by bluebottles brought in by north-easterly winds, which forced lifesavers to close Coolangatta beach one day last week and, according to a report by news.com.au, led to more than 1300 reported stings on Gold Coast beaches on the first weekend of the new year.

And it comes as senior lifeguards have warned swimmers to take care when thick rafts of "cornflake'' seaweed wash into shore, because the weed is often accompanied by bluebottles and other marine animals.

Queensland Health data lists more than 100 hospital presentations on the Gold Coast.

The doctor said presentations include people stung by jellyfish or stingrays, bitten by sharks or other large fish, suffering bites from sea snakes, and cuts from sea urchins and coral while swimming or diving.

"The Gold Coast boasts some of the best beaches in the world," Gold Coast University Hospital doctor Sanj Kulawickrama said.

"But like a lot of popular Australian beaches, it is also home to dangerous marine stingers.

"A sting from these creatures can make you very sick. They can cause severe pain and, in some cases, paralysis.

"While beachgoers should be aware of stingers all year round, we're in the highest risk part of the season right now. It's warm, many people are on holidays and the beaches are busy."

Queensland's "stinger season" typically extended from November to the end of May but could start earlier or finish later.

Gold Coast councillor Kristyn Boulton posted this photo of upside-down jellyfish to Facebook last year.
Gold Coast councillor Kristyn Boulton posted this photo of upside-down jellyfish to Facebook last year.

"If you or anyone else is stung (badly), seek medical aid immediately," he said.

"Check the person's level of consciousness and assess their airway, breathing and circulation and, if required, perform resuscitation.''

Giving an example of the danger of stingers in North Queensland and Great Barrier Reef waters, Dr Kulawickrama said people had died after being stung by box jellyfish and the small stingers that cause Irukandji syndrome.

Dr Kulawickrama said the priority was to keep a patient stable and safe and seek medical advice if there was persistent pain.

"The wound should be immersed in warm water - about 45 degrees C - for 20 minutes, unless the sting is by a box jellyfish. In that case, the wound should be doused liberally with vinegar for 30 seconds to neutralise the stinging cells.''

A cold pack or ice in a dry plastic bag would help relieve pain and inflammation.

If symptoms were severe, call triple-0.


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